NEWS - Austal ferries assist in Japan and Libya

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High-speed cats provide rapid-response in humanitarian relief efforts

NEWS - Austal ferries assist in Japan and Libya
NEWS — Austal ferries assist in Japan and Libya

Austal-built high-speed ferries have recently been engaged to assist in relief efforts in Japan and Libya, which the Australian shipbuilder says demonstrates the adaptability and suitability of high-speed craft in providing a rapid-response to humanitarian assistance operations.

Austal’s 101m WestPac Express, which has operated as a high-speed theatre support vessel with the Okinawa-based Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) of the US Marine Corps for more than 10 years, is currently deployed to mainland Japan to provide support for foreign humanitarian assistance operations following the devastating March 11 earthquake.

WestPac Express will deliver a Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) for use in the assistance operations. (A FARP is a temporary facility that allows aircraft to conduct continuous operations without having to return to an established airport to obtain fuel). The vessel will also transport additional supplies, communications equipment and personnel to be used in the relief operations.

The involvement of WestPac Express in the Japanese relief efforts is the latest demonstration of large high-speed aluminium catamarans assisting with humanitarian support.

Recently, the Austal-built vessels Osman Gazi, Orhan Gazi and Maria Dolores were all deployed to assist in the evacuation of foreign citizens from Libya, while in early 2010, Austal-built 113m high-speed cats Huakai and Alakai assisted in Haitian relief efforts.

Osman Gazi and Orhan Gazi made multiple journeys between the Libyan city of Benghazi and Turkey, evacuating thousands of Turkish citizens. The two 88m aluminium catamarans were delivered to Turkish operator, Istanbul Deniz Otobusleri (IDO) in mid 2007, where they have since been in operation across the Marmara Sea between Yenikapi and Bursa.

Maria Dolores, operated by Virtu Ferries, also made several rescue voyages between Tripoli, the capitol of Libya, and Malta. The 68m vehicle-passenger ferry has the capacity to carry up to 600 passengers and 65 cars at a time, and is capable of speeds of approximately 35kts.

Austal chief executive officer, Andrew Bellamy, commented that both the Japanese and Libyan relief operations have demonstrated the capability of fast craft in enabling a rapid response for humanitarian assistance efforts.

"While our thoughts are with those in Japan and Libya during these difficult times, we are thankful that Austal-built vessels were able to contribute to the relief operations, both through the delivery of much needed supplies, and in the case of Libya, the evacuation of thousands of foreign citizens," said Bellamy.

"Vessels such as Osman Gazi, Orhan Gazi and Maria Dolores, while intended for commercial operation, are well suited for humanitarian relief operations due to their high payload, shallow draft and ability to operate at high speeds, thus enabling a fast and effective response to a crisis," he said.

In late 2008, Austal was contracted by the US Department of Defense to build up to 10 103m Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV). Similar in design to WestPac Express, the JHSVs will be used by the US Army and US Navy to assist with humanitarian relief operations and other activities requiring rapid intra-theatre deployment/transportation of personnel, equipment and supplies, supporting military logistics and sustainment.

The Austal JHSV will be equipped with a ramp to enable the use of austere piers and quay walls, common in developing countries, while the vessel’s shallow draft (of 3.83m) will further enhance port access. Construction of the first two JHSVs, Spearhead and Vigilant, is currently underway at Austal’s US facilities.

Photo: Austal’s 101m WestPac Express.

 


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